Andy Paling

Villanova gearing up for production of “Mamma Mia!”

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The actors, singers and backstage crew at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School are getting ready for their upcoming production of “Mamma Mia!”

Opening night is Feb. 22 with six performances scheduled overall. Regan White, a Grade 11 student from Amherstburg who plays “Donna” in the show, said they are excited.

“We’ve been working really hard for a few months,” said White. “It’s going to be a great show.”

St. Thomas of Villanova will soon present “Mamma Mia!” with (from left) Alexa Monacco, Regan White and Nicole Gyorgi part of the show.

White noted they have been working since last fall on their dancing, acting and singing, the latter involving five vocal instructors. She plays in a lead role and said that there is a lot of responsibility but that is something she enjoys.

“It’s fun,” said White. “It’s a lot of work, though.”

Auditions were last October, she added, and that she sought out that role. The role of “Donna” is one that a lot of people could relate to, White added.

This isn’t the first time White has been in a lead role with a Villanova production as she was one of the stars of “We Will Rock You” and “Rock of Ages” in previous years. White also performs musical theatre with Cardinal Music Productions in Windsor.

“I’d like to do this professionally,” she said. “I’d like to do this on Broadway.”

White added the cast and crew are grateful to the teachers assisting on “Mamma Mia!” including director Mary Jo Grado and musical director Ann Marie Brunet.

“All of the teachers are really hard at work and we really want to thank them for that,” said White.

Players in the upcoming St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School production of “Mamma Mia!” rehearse a scene.

Justin Bobbie plays “Sam” and also said “it’s really exciting” especially with opening night closing in.

“It’s so exciting being a lead. It’s good to have so many responsibilities. It makes you feel like you are doing something,” said Bobbie. “It’s a lot of work. I almost feel like I’m 50, I get tired so fast.”

Bobbie said he is confident in his own abilities and that of his cast mates.

“When those lights hit you, there’s nothing else like it,” he said.

Bobbie has been a lead before but pointed out that he doesn’t have as much on his plate as previous years. He added he feels he is fully prepared for the show.

As for his future plans, Bobbie said he is keeping his options open.

“Honestly, guys like me are a dime a dozen,” he said, adding “it’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

Players in the upcoming St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School production of “Mamma Mia!” rehearse a scene.

Grado said there are about 75-80 students in total that are involved with the production of “Mamma Mia!” including about 57 on stage.

“It takes this amount of kids to put on a show like this,” she said. “The dedication level is high and it’s a demanding show.”

Andy Paling’s construction class also helps to literally put the show together as they build sets. It was Paling who decided to present “Mamma Mia!” this year as he is retiring after spending 30 years teaching at Villanova.

“This really is his baby,” said Grado. “We decided, as his retirement gift, that he got to pick the last show of his career.”

Shows are Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 at 7 p.m., Feb. 24 at 1 p.m., and there are also 7 p.m. shows Feb. 28, March 1 and March 2. Tickets are $15 for adults and students, $10 for seniors and children 6-12 and free for children under six, except for Feb. 24 and Feb. 28 when all seats are $10. They are available at the school or at the door the night of the show.

Villanova among the winners at ERCA’s Conservation Awards

 

Eight organizations and/or individuals have been recognized by the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) as winners of Conservation Awards.

The award presentation followed ERCA’s annual general meeting, held last Thursday night in Essex.

“It’s always inspiring to learn more about those who have made tangible contributions to our regional environment,” said new ERCA chair Irek Kusmierczyk. “By moving forward, together, with committed organizations and individuals like those we honour tonight, we will ensure that our region remains the Place for Life.”

Among the winners of Conservation Awards were St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School. The school received the Education Award and was honoured for more than two decades of educating students about the environment, and inspiring them to action through greening, cleanups, invasive species removals, and Monarch protection. Villanova was also recognized this past year as a gold school under the Ontario Eco-Schools program.

“The ongoing efforts of teacher Andy Paling is the driving force behind the school’s success,” said Danielle Stuebing, ERCA’s director of communications and outreach services.

Paling stated that “it’s easy to do what we do at our campus,” noting that Villanova sits on 11 acres on County Road 8. He also said “thousands of students” have been involved in environmental efforts over the years and added that the school has developed “amazing partnerships.”

ERCA vice chair Tonia Jobin (left) and chair Irek Kusmierczyk (right) present St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School with the Education Award during last Thursday night’s Essex Region Conservation Authority’s Conservation Awards.

It is “incredibly rewarding” to see students become eager to get excited about gathering seeds, working in the greenhouse or doing some of the many other environmental initiatives Villanova undertakes.

“Kids are willing and yearning to do these things,” he said. “They just need the opportunities.”

Ceara Copat captured the Youth Award for her dedication to natural and cultural heritage interpretation and action, including tree planting, invasive species removal, and engagement. Maurice Chauvin won the Conservation Farm Award for adopting a variety of conservation and best management practices, over six generations of farming, to protect their greatest resource – the soil.

The Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment Association earned the John R. Park Homestead Award for maintaining and promoting the historic and cultural significant of the Regiment in the community, and extra efforts this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1.

In an emotional moment, Karen Batke was posthumously awarded the  Volunteer Award for more than 35 years of volunteering to protect and restore Cedar, Mill and Wigle Creeks through tree planting, cleanups, and invasive species removal.

Winners of the Conservation Awards gather for a group photo following ERCA’s annual general meeting Jan. 24 at the Essex Civic Centre.

The group Just Fishin’ Friends captured Volunteer Organization Award for their dedication in providing learn to fish opportunities to residents across the region, to help them learn more about native fish species and the Great Lakes. Tepperman’s earned the Environmental Achievement award for its “Live for Tomorrow” sustainability plan and significant achievements in waste reduction, energy consumption, innovative recycling solutions, and a shared environmental ethic with staff, suppliers and partners.

Laura Monforton won the Dennis Chase Staff Award for her dedication, conscientiousness, kindness and compassion to colleagues, customers and partners through a variety of roles at ERCA, including tree planting and restoration, events and outreach, and protecting sources of drinking water as the region’s risk management official/inspector.

ERCA also reviewed the accomplishments of the past year, including forward momentum towards a regional Climate Change Strategy, restoring 143 acres of habitat, connecting nearly 10,000 kids to nature through outdoor education, releasing its five-year Watershed Report Card, and welcoming over 75,000 visitors to conservation areas and trails.

A full copy of ERCA’s Annual Report and corresponding video can be found at  www.essexregionconservation.ca

 

 

Schools celebrate eco-school status

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School has undertaken environmental initiatives for a number of years but now they are being recognized for it.

The Catholic secondary school has been awarded gold status and teacher Andy Paling said this is the first time they have put in for any sort of designation. Villanova has been performing a number of environmentally-friendly activities for years, he stated, and that is the reason they achieved gold so early in the designation process.

Anderdon Public School’s eco-team helped earn their school platinum status.

Among the projects undertaken at Villanova have been recycling, composting, creation and maintenance of a butterfly garden, a number of tree plantings, maintenance of a trail around their County Road 8 property. They also have an “eagle’s nest” program where Paling said they can view a nest on a neighbouring property through a telescope.

“It’s bringing awareness of what is going on around us,” said Paling.

Anderdon Public School achieved platinum status again this year. Their eco-team performed many different activities with Harrison Kulic explaining one of those was a “boomerang lunch” where garbage is brought home so parents can see how much trash is created.

Anderdon encourages re-usable containers with Claire Brown stating they do garbage audits and have litter-less lunches as well. Sofia Kulic said such things as plastic straws and bags were banned on eco-day with Ava Soucie stating there have also been “lights out lunches” as well where the lights were turned off to save on utilities.

Other projects have included trying to attract bees, recycle batteries and working with a Harrow church to turn milk bags into blankets for those in third world countries. They also compost and do a variety of other environmentally-themed activities.

St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School earned gold status the first time they entered as an eco-school.

Teacher and eco-team supervisor Jodi Nolin said they have diverted probably in the neighbourhood of 10,000 milk bags from the landfill over the years.

Nolin added that Anderdon Public School welcomes community groups and parents to help them with projects.

Amherstburg Public School also achieved a gold eco-schools status for the most recent school year as did St. Joseph School in River Canard. Stella Maris School earned a silver designation.

Villanova marks major milestone with 100,000th canned good collected

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The generosity of the St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School students was on display again last Wednesday.

The Catholic high school collected its 100,000th canned good with teacher Andy Paling stating it is likely they have gone past that milestone. It started small and has blossomed into “Food Bank Friday” fundraisers with various classes within the school participating.

“This program has been going on for about six years now,” Paling stated. “It’s evolved a bit to where we team up with other fundraisers.”

Villanova assists eight local food banks in the area, with the Sandwich Towne Food Bank getting a hand last week. Paling said last week’s fundraiser saw about 2,500 canned goods and non-perishable items brought in. Students took many of the cans and spelled out “100,000” on the floor in the school’s main foyer.

Students from St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School stand with the latest collection of cans the school gathered for charity, The Catholic high school celebrated the fact they now have surpassed 100,000 canned goods collected.

“I try to involve different classes,” noted Paling, as opposed to one class or group concentrating on the efforts. “We try to include as many classes as possible to get involved.”

Paling added his daughter Ashley helped create Food Bank Friday as she pointed out there is always a need. When she graduated, Paling assumed oversight of the fundraisers.

The Windsor Port Authority helps out with the Sandwich Towne Food Bank and Christina Pare from the Port Authority was impressed with the efforts of the Villanova staff and students.

“It’s great,” she said. “We’ve partnered with Villanova for a couple of years now.”

Pare said that it is unfortunate that the need is still there, but she said the Port Authority was encouraged to see the support of such schools as St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School.